The Breakfast Club    

An Affiliate of the Arizona Pilots Assn

The Knife & Fork




Breakfast Club Visits Monument Valley, Stagecoach Restaurant


By Warren McIlvoy
14 Sep 02

When one thinks of Monument Valley, visions of multi colored mesas and spires, stained with "desert varnish", dusty roads, early John Wayne movies, hogans, and the land of the Navajos, fill the mind's eye. The Breakfast Club planning committee, saw it as a truly unique and fascinating place for a breakfast fly-in. Our last visit to this area was about three years ago and it was a weekend event with the group staying at the Gouldings Resort. As part of that event, we enjoyed a great breakfast at the Stagecoach Restaurant and then a guided tour of Monument Valley. We were also treated to a tour of Mystery Valley that was dominated by views of cliff dwellings and, the grand finale, a cookout staged in one of the many canyons. So, with all of these alluring attractions, is it any wonder that the Breakfast Club had to make an encore visit to this special place, if only to have a morning meal.

On the morning of our event, I check DUATS for the day’s weather but as I suspected, there was nothing of any consequence at that hour and the day promised to be severe clear. The winds aloft showed nothing out of the ordinary with light winds out of the northwest. At our departure time of 0700 at Scottsdale Airport, the winds were essentially calm as we departed straight-out on runway 3. Our final cruise altitude would be 9500' but I felt that we would hold about 7500' until we reached the area of Payson . Our direct course would take us about 5 miles west of Payson so this is where I initiated the last bit of our cruise climb to 9500'. It was at this time that I keyed-up the radio to see if there were any other Breakfast Club aircraft in the air. Up to this point, I did not hear a thing on our "group flight following" frequency of 123.45 and I was beginning to think that I might be the only one going to 71V. But, low and behold, other Breakfast Club people began to report-in. At this time, I believe that I was in the lead to Monument Valley but with a gaggle of faster aircraft now in the air, it would not be long before I would fall behind, not last mind you, but near the middle of the pack.

Although I had noticed a bit of head-wind at 7500' below the Mogollon Rim, it was not until I reached our final cruise altitude of 9500' over the Rim, that the real effects of the head-winds, were now being realized. My normal ground speed would have been around 123 kts but my GPS was showing only about 93 kts over the ground. Al Feldner (BC-33) was at 11,500' and he was reporting 32 kts on the nose. This was not good. What should have been about an 1:55 flight for me, was now looming to be well past the 2 hour mark. To make matters worse, I had forgotten that the Reservations, observe daylight savings time. When I spoke with the folks at Gouldings, I told them that our group would arrive about 0900. Now, it appears that we would be arriving around 1030. As I neared Winslow, I tuned-in the AWOS to see what the conditions were at that airport. The winds on the ground were variable at less then 5 kts so it appears that our enthusiastic headwinds, were a product of altitude. I advised the rest of the group that I would be descending to 7500' to see if I could shed some of these headwinds. Well, it worked, somewhat. I picked-up about 7-8 knts of ground speed and advised our group about these conditions. The only down side to this altitude was that, as I would near Kayenta , the surrounding ridges, more commonly known as Black Mesa, in some cases, would rise to about 8200'. This was no real big deal since I could make a little bit of a northerly jog in my course and follow route 160 in from the southwest. This worked out very nicely, thank you.

From Kayenta, following the highway to the north, will take you right passed Agatha Peak, a very predominant landmark that juts straight up to about 7100' or about 1700' above the existing land elevation. Another 12 miles will get you to the north side of a 6000' mesa that shields Gouldings from any southern exposure. This same mesa is only about 1200' from the end of the runway and is a very imposing obstacle for those that are unfamiliar with this airstrip. Once you have touched-down on the runway, the outcome of a successful go-around, is problematic at best.

Three of the Breakfast Club aircraft had already arrived so that would attest that the dirt runway was in usable condition. The northern part of Arizona had gotten quite a lot of rain during the past week so there was some concern about the runway conditions. The last 800' of the runway is paved so my plan was to touch-down on the paved portion and avoid to dirt portion altogether. For the most part, the plan worked although I actually touched-down about 50' short of the pavement and since this portion of the runway has a very noticeable uphill gradient, stopping was a "no brainer". The three aircraft that had arrived earlier, parked along the western perimeter of the paved ramp so I chose to use the first available space along the southern edge. We were asked to leave enough space for the tour aircraft that use this strip on a regular basis. The two remaining Breakfast Club aircraft parked along the northern edge with the plane's tails projecting over the dirt tie-down area. The dirt portion of the ramp had been graded but it look to soft for the small tires on our aircraft.

We could have taken the short hike up to the Resort but since they had made two vans available for our transportation to the restaurant, we chose to avail ourselves of this service. Gouldings is literally constructed on the up slope of the mesa, it stands to reason that, once you get there, everything is uphill from the main office. The vans circled around the end of the lodge and continued the climb until we arrived at the foot of the stairs that would get us to the Stagecoach Restaurant. The restaurant is made-up of two tiers (hard to believe, isn't it?), with the lower tier providing a panoramic view of the valley to the northeast thanks to the large windows that dominate the north wall of the restaurant. We were all grouped together but the tables would only accommodate from 2-4 people each so that conversation was limited to another couple at your table or you had speak-up to be heard by another table across from yours. Since it was now past noon local time, our breakfast turned-out to be an early lunch for us. As such, I ordered the "breakfast" bacon and mushroom cheeseburger. It appeared that all of the portions were substantial enough to carry us through the rest of the day.

As the vans let us off at the restaurant, I had arranged to have them meet us at the office level in about an hour and a half. This would give us enough time to have our meal, and to make the mandatory trip through the souvenir/gift shop that was strategically located between the restaurant and the main office. It was also located "downhill" from the restaurant, what a surprise. While in the gift shop, I inquired if Ronnie Baird was available. Ronnie is the contact person that I have used at Gouldings for the past 3 years or so. I was informed that his office is in the lower lever of the gift shop and that I could get there by using the stairs at the end of the shop area. The lower level appeared to be the administrative area for the resort. Ronnie was in his office so we were able to talk for a little bit and catch-up on tidbits about the Breakfast Club . After dropping an appropriate amount of coin in the shop, we exited the shop via a door at the lower level that shortened the distance to the Resort office. When we got to the van, there was only one other person there as some of the group opted to take the downhill hike via the road to the airstrip.

When we arrived earlier in the morning, there was only one other aircraft parked on the ramp. During our lunch meal, a couple of De Havilland Twin Otters had landed and parked in the dirt area of the ramp. By the time that we got back to the airstrip, four other aircraft had arrived including one Cessna 207 and three Caravans. The place was getting crowded. Ronnie informed me that the airstrip at Monument Valley, was the second busiest airstrip in the state of Utah. This was amazing but understandable considering the number of tour aircraft that use this strip. We were informed that there would be another four Caravans arriving within about 10 minutes so we did not waste time in getting loaded-up and prepared to take-off. I did the "run-up" while positioned at 90 degrees to the runway so that when I was ready, it was full power by the time that I got lined-up with the runway heading. Since this runway is situated on an up slope, and even more so at this end, taking-off to the north and downhill, is a "no brainer" decision. The down slope provided a very quick acceleration but I still used about 250' of the dirt portion of the runway.

After departing the airstrip, our plan was to depart to the east and make a circle tour of Monument Valley. We chose to climb to 6500' which would keep us at about 1500' above the valley floor. This altitude put us at about eye level with most of the Valley mesas and provided an exceedingly impressive view of the valley. I recognized a number of the formations from our guided tour of the past. We made the turn to the southwest and passed just to the south of “John Ford's Point". We could even see the rider on the horse that rides out on the peninsula that has been used in many movies. From there it was a direct heading towards Winslow for re-fueling. We did get some boost from the northerly winds but we were traveling in a southwesterly direction so we did not get full advantage from it. The ride was also a bit more choppy which is typical for mid day flight. The winds at Winslow , all-be-it light, favored runway 22 and since the self fueling facilities are located behind the terminal building, we just stayed on the runway untill we reached the parallel taxiway along runway 11/29. Four planes in all opted to make the fuel stop in Winslow. After we had finished the re-fueling chores, we moved the aircraft out of the way and then strode over to the terminal building to check-out some of the new changes.

Earlier this year, the restaurant on the airfield, the "Port Java Café ", closed down. The Breakfast Club had visited this location in the past and it had some real quirks. The restaurant looked like something out of the 50's, moderate in size and very plain in decor. The food was OK but the service was about as slow as three day old lava. The "chef" could only prepare one dish at a time so it took forever for us to finish our meal. Fifteen or twenty people could make this a half day adventure. Last year, the City of Winslow, turned the airport over to a new operator and the restaurant was recently reopened. The new name is "The Last Resort". There was 8 or 9 of us that stopped in there to get some liquid refreshments at the lunch counter. The new owners seemed very pleasant and this may be a place that we may want to re-visit in the near future.

From where we were parked, it was only a short taxi to us runway 29 as the winds were of no real factor. We climbed to 7500' and took a direct course to SDL. Though the air was still a bit choppy, the ride was not to uncomfortable for the balance of the trip. As we were traveling in a southwesterly direction, we only got about a 15 kt boost from the tailwind. Not counting the down time at Winslow, our trip back was less than two hours flying time. Not to bad.

The Monument Valley Gang

  • Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy in 4544X, BC-1
  • Roger & Joanna Pries in 13806
  • Harold DarcAngelo in 320HD, BC-32
  • David Lester, Dave Henning, Alex Reyes, and Christopher Fernandez in 32832, BC-88
  • Richard Azimov, Dolly Petersen, Richard Spiegel, and Julie Cramer in 901KA, BC-2, 3, & 3.5
  • Al & Adele Feldner in 6127Q, BC-33

What's Next?

The October event for the Breakfast Club      should see us making an encore visit to Marble Canyon (L41). We will be traveling there via one of the corridors crossing the Grand Canyon    . This is a very scenic trip and if you have never been there, this is a prime opportunity. November will see us making our third trip to Kingman.  That's all for now, but remember, fly safe.


Click on the Monument Valley link to view photos of this fly-in event.